Saturday 27 October 2012

Watching brief

In my hall, betwixt wall and ceiling, lives a little spider with its cocoon. At least, I hope it lives; it doesn't seem to move much. There is a neat circular doorway, and what looks like a bit of discarded leg.

It's hard to photograph, standing on a little stepladder holding a camera above my head.

I realise how little I know about spiders, yet I share my home with gazillions of them. We fish them out of sinks and bath almost every day; big beefy black-legged ones flee under the fridge, and little ones festoon the indoor plants with tiny webs.

I shall watch this one carefully over the coming weeks, to see what happens. I so enjoyed my garden spider watch way back in 2009.

And of course I shall let you know.... Sorry if you hate the thought!

Friday 26 October 2012

To market, to market

The Gardener and I are doomed to only spend days out together in awful weather, when work is a less appealing option. Today was rainy enough to qualify for a day out. It was very chilly too - cold enough to suggest imminent winter.

The Gardener and I went to the local Farmer's Market this morning, where we had arranged to take photos for Cheryl, who manages the market's website. Stall holders were asked not to pose, but to go about their business as though they weren't being observed. 

On the whole, they did well. 

I love the slate labels on the bread stall.

Some stallholders found it hard not to laugh or come over all shy....

"Oh no, not in this hat!" was heard more than once.

But on a cold wet day, they wanted to chat, to laugh, to encourage us (well me, the non-vegetarian) to sample the wonderful prize-winning pork sausages, the hot apple juice, and to complain about the vile weather. 

Some customers wanted to be photographed.

It's a very small market, and the weather delayed a number of regulars from shopping; business is usually brisk.

The fish van always does a roaring trade - sadly, there is no longer an established fishmonger in this seaside town.

I came away with photos, dahlias, sausages, three-seed sourdough bread, and frozen fingers - time to dig out the winter woollies, I think. The Gardener sloped off for a double espresso while I shopped, and then we went home with our bounty.

And still it rained. 

Later, we went off into a remote part of the countryside to see The Gardener's lovely daughter, and on the way home, stopped off in Wellington at the shop where I had bought the Annie Sloan paint. Yes, I wanted to buy some more - very smart Paris Grey for the dining room bookcase, and Old White to tone any other colour down a bit if desired. I'm a convert now!

For those of who who are interested: While there, I asked shop owner Jilly - a great ASCP enthusiast -  about the wax/blotchiness problem, and was given very clear instructions as to how to avoid this. For those of you who are interested, you need to use a very little wax, on a very little wad of soft clean cotton fabric, applying on a very little area, and working fast. Sand very lightly if you want a really smooth finish. Buff  it up the following day.

We shopped for pet food and violas, had coffee and apple pie. And then we came home again. In the rain.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Thrift, Annie and me - but not you

This begins with a complaint; a complaint about you, my lovely readers. Lots of you knew that I liked painted furniture. That I disliked knotty pine. That I preferred neutral colours to orange fake wood. And that I was a sloppy, hasty, impatient corner-cutting, bodging type of DIY-er. 

Didn't you? Come on, you know you did. 

Perhaps you'd forgotten my orange knotty pine and laminate bedroom furniture that I bought along with the cottage, because it fitted the tricky space, and could easily be painted. Perhaps you'd not been reminded, as I tended to keep my weary repetition "I must give all this ginger stuff a lick of paint! A Spring project... oh no, a summer project....oh drat, an autumn project...." to myself, and sometimes, The Gardener, who has a long To-Do list of his own?

The motivation to apply that lick of paint had evaded me for a year.

So tell me -  why did no one amongst you tell me about Annie Sloan Chalk Paints? The no-priming, no-sanding, slap-it-on-quick paint, perfect for those, who like me, tend to skimp on preparation and expect wondrous transformation in half an hour?

Anyway, despite your secretiveness, I noticed it myself in several American blogs, and enquired of all-knowing You Tube as to whether or not this was just a tantalising dream.

But no; such a miraculous paint existed, seemed very popular in the States, where heavy old brown pieces of furniture with unfamiliar names like 'hutch', 'buffet' and 'chiffonier' were turned into pretty and more contemporary items in the wave of a paintbrush. And best of all, the paint was available in a new shop half an hour's drive away from where I live.

So The Gardener and I charged off to investigate, bearing with us a scrap of bedroom curtain fabric to match colours with, found exactly what we wanted, and a few days later I made a start. 


From bright orange to Country Grey, in no time at all.

I wanted a dead flat finish, rather than a distressed look, and so far, have found that easy to achieve with the paint. But the soft wax applied later on is harder to succeed in getting on evenly, and dries so quickly that I struggle to avoid blotchiness. Those of you who have used ASCP (as the US bloggers tend to call it) - any advice?

The other miraculous thing is that The Gardener has come over all enthused too, and promises to paint with me. My cup paint pot runneth over.....

I'll post pictures when it's all done - and the bed will be properly made too.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Misty mornings

The morning air is full of moisture; the atmosphere is still and mysterious.

(Click on these images to enlarge, and see the real beauty.)

The lacemakers are busy.

As are the invisible decorators. Crystal beads are popular again this year.

Magical, magical. I am five years old again, struck silent with wonder.

PS I didn't get to Exeter after all - I got the horrors about spending hours in shops, and decided to stay home and paint furniture instead. But first I had to visit the spidery wonderland that is revealed in damp weather....

Monday 22 October 2012

Making an effort

I've been wondering - no, more like worrying - about why I don't blog much any more. I am still deeply in love with blogs and blogging, but somehow I haven't found much to write about for months. And I miss it.

Lying in bed this morning, listening to the dismal weather being wet yet again, I thought about this some more. I realised that when I lived in Newcastle, my life was full of bloggable ups and downs, delights and anxieties, Flossie's innards, house-doing-up/selling/buying/moving, with a rich (and occasionally eccentric) variety of friends and neighbours, who didn't mind being blogged about, to enliven the quieter moments. 

Here, I haven't written about my neighbours or my new friends, and no one knows that I have a blog. And might look at me in a sideways Somerset-y sort of way were I to tell them.....

Anyhow.... as no one knows, and in any case, probably looks at me sideways more often than I care to notice, why shouldn't I write about the little community in which I now live? Or about what I do to keep myself amused, other than plodding up and down muddy lanes with a filthy dog, shouting at her to leave the fallen apples alone?

So.... this is an update on life in the slow lane. It's busy, in a laid-back, lazy sort of way. There's the Women's Institute, the WI skittles morning, the volunteer attendance on behalf of MIND at the weekly Seniors' Lunch, and the regular room guide session at Dunster Castle. Not to mention life with The Gardener (also occasionally eccentric) and the furry tribe, as well as Flossie's innards and the too-familiar consequences of not preventing her from eating the fallen apples.

I'll start with the Castle. I have been volunteering once a week* since early summer, having scraped together enough decent (ie non-dog-walking) clothes to look semi-respectable. I've been a room guide, the person who, in the past, would stand silently in a corner watching in case some bold and impudent visitor should talk in more than a timid whisper; now we are allowed to be friendly, to encourage and respond to talk and questions, and to try to make visitors feel welcome. Timid whispering is not expected, although some visitors will still creep around like frightened mice. 

*Actually, I have paused the volunteering in recent weeks, when the everlasting shingles really began to take its toll, but I'll go back to it when I'm properly fit and well again, because it is very enjoyable, the visitors are mostly very nice people, and the other volunteers feel like a peculiar sort of family - not quite Downstairs, certainly not Upstairs, but comfortably proprietorial. 

We volunteers are a decidedly mixed and cheerful bunch; some are immensely knowledgeable and remember facts and dates, while others among us (ahem) Do Our Best. We have our favourite rooms - time can go rather slowly if you're allocated a room that doesn't interest you. Some are gloomy; some have ghosts; many have breakable things that an enthusiastic toddler will home in on like an exocet missile; one has a beautiful silk patchwork bedspread that had to be repaired after two small boys leapt enthusiastically onto it with their outdoor shoes....

Volunteers also have favourite stories of things visitors have said or asked; mine is from one woman who was - as happens occasionally - touring the place with the seeming sole aim of disapproving of how the wealthy lived. Coming into the billiards room, with its huge Edwardian - not Viking - table, she remarked sourly, "I suppose they had to have somethin' to do when they weren't rapin' an' lootin' an' pillagin'..."

(Looting and pillaging does take place, however; the hand-cut wooden jigsaw depicting the Drawing Room has to be replaced on a regular basis when several pieces go mysteriously missing.)

Tea breaks last for 15 minutes, time that can be taken up simply getting to and from the staff room, with its urn and biscuit tins; you have to be adept at drinking your tea very hot indeed and scooting back to your post in time.

I hope to learn the A&B (Attics and Basement) Tour next season. Thank goodness the National Trust doesn't expect its volunteers to dress up; I wouldn't at all mind the housemaid's apron, but the cap? Perhaps not.

More in due course. Tomorrow I'm leaving the slow lane and going off to Exeter (on the train from Taunton, 40 minutes away; nowhere is that easy to get to here!) to shop. A branch of John Lewis has just opened there, and excitement in our little town is running high, so high, indeed, that the local WI have booked seats on a coach for the sole purpose of visiting this icon of modern consumerism. Me, I'm the Lone Shopper, too easily distracted to go in a group, and I need some ideas for Christmas presents.

Don't go away; you know you want to know about the skittles, and the Seniors' Lunch, now, don't you.....

Back soon!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

On the beach

No, not that rather gripping Nevil Shute novel, but a bright sunny day amidst the many wet ones, and an outing to Doniford beach.

Not a lovely beach, really, with Triassic-Jurassic mudstone, rocks and some modern builders rubble. It can be squelchy underfoot, and people have been known to get stuck in the mud on this stretch of coast and have to be rescued.  There were a couple of alarming episodes where I felt my feet sinking unexpectedly. Surprising how quickly one becomes squeaky-voiced with panic as gloopy mud sucks one's shoes downwards! 

(Not helped by being teased by The Gardener, who reassured me (not at all) by telling me that he would stay devotedly beside me as I sank until I disappeared; as I was only 5'1', it might be quick.....)

I was glad to scramble back onto the smooth rocks.

But there was lots to see.


One of the sillier-looking kind of labradoodle, jolly and undeterred, trying hard to befriend Flossie.

Fossils. Many small ammonites, mostly the size of 50p coins.

The steam train that runs between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard.

And then the river, where Flossie swam and cleaned up; my camera battery had run down by then, or I could have showed you the state of my shoes as we returned to the car.

The seaside in autumn and winter; just wonderful, so long as you don't sink.

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